When I started my position as the new Bounty Farm Manager, it was late August, and the Farm was bursting at the seams with its abundance of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, kale, flowers, herbs, strawberries, and yes, summer squash. Customers at our Farm Stand and Farmacy would offer thanks for my having “grown all this,” to which I would somewhat uncomfortably offer a polite thank you, but then quickly explain that I was actually new to the Farm, and that this bounty was the work of many, many contributing, loving hands.
Upon entering the little universe that is the Bounty Farm, I immediately appreciated how the Farm is its own living and breathing organism. The Farm has a life and breath of its own, one that I am honored and humbled to participate in. I am moved by the energy and the community that supports the Farm. Many times during my first weeks at the Farm, I would laugh and think, “Am I really ‘managing’ the Farm? Or is the Farm managing me?!” The Farm has its own rhythms and cycles, some of them tied to the natural world, such as the gradual shortening of days and cooling of nights. But others are social and cultural and are as much a part of the Farm as the natural elements of soil, water, and sun. For instance, every Tuesday and Saturday morning I know that I can expect to see smiling and expectant faces at the Farm, eager and ready to help with the work of that day’s harvest for our CSA Bounty Bags or Farmers’ Market.
There is of course a sharp learning curve with any new job, but one reason I find farming particularly captivating and thrilling is the ever evolving cycle of it all. Just as I was beginning to relax into the rhythms of the peak summer season, summer began to wane, and I needed to quickly attune to the needs of the farm, the beds, and the crops, as well as our many wonderful Farm interns and volunteers whose own needs often shift as school returns back into session in the fall. Our three cornerstone sales outlets—Saturday Farmers’ Market, the Petaluma Health Center Farmacy, and the on-farm Farm Stand—were all still going strong well into fall, with many summer crops continuing to produce prolifically. Being a new arrival to the amazing Mediterranean climate that is the North Bay, I still marvel at the abundance of it all. Strawberries! Still! At Halloween!
But despite the deceptive tease of balmy weather and continued abundant summer crops, fall was still slowly and surely approaching. And that meant many things still needed to happen. Despite the continued productivity of certain summer crops (tomatoes and strawberries, this means you!), these beds, like all the others, still needed to be turned over to prepare the fields for the fall seeding of the cover crop. There was a dance happening between capturing the last harvests from our beautiful and bountiful summer fields, to mowing all the fields with adequate time to still sow the cover crop before the rains began. The cover crop must be sown before the rains begin in earnest for several reasons. Along with the rains come the shortening of days and a chilling of the soil, two factors which are less conducive to good seed germination. And rain also means muddy fields, which make necessary tractor work impossible. Adding to these natural factors were the additional pressures of the Farm’s response to, and work with, the fire relief effort, as well as back-to-back personal family events that required my own travel on two consecutive weeks away from the farm. So when I was doing some reading on cover crops and came across this concise narrative of fall on the Northern California farm, the wonderfully dry humor had me laughing for days:
“There is often a very tight window between cover crop planting and harvest of fall crops which, coupled with the potential for significant rain events, can add considerably to the excitement.”
Excitement indeed! And that is why I am here, and why I love what I am doing—because farming is sometimes itchy, sometimes tiring, but often times beautiful, and rarely, if ever, dull! Thank you to everyone who shared with me this excitement during my first three months at Bounty Farm. I am looking forward to another productive and exciting season in 2018!